Art featured; Achilles Removing Patroclus’ Body From The Battle, By Léon Davent (c. 16th century)
There’s a billboard, somewhere in the middle
of Ohio, because I’m not American and that sounds
like a place that could be haunted,
but haunted for real:
by hands that are flesh and are war and are love.
Am I derailing, Patroclus? I apologize.
There’s a billboard in a place that is probably Ohio,
probably not the country you live in,
and it say:
YOU ARE ACHILLES.
It’s your writing. Printed, nameless and antique,
old like something that made the Trojan war
a war, a filthy touch, a delicate violence;
old like something like us, Patroclus-
a little queer family of two natural catastrophes.
You’d be the weather,
a weather that is music
(like a poorly inserted reference
that no one but us will get),
I’d be the war.
I make you breakfast and over the little ugly table
YOU CALL ME ACHILLES.
In summer I wear baggy and flowery shorts
so that I can raise my martyr legs and drag
my strong ankles to your working face, asking
you to touch my tendons and see
if I die.
In winter I roll up the earthy green jeans
so that I can raise my legs and drag
my weak ankles to your working face, asking
you to clean up the blood around them.
I never die.
I AM ACHILLES.
I don’t know how to end this poem.
It might be because I never understood war,
so in a way I can never lose.
The sweet violence has become a friendship,
the brute tragedy has become a pause,
as the dead rise up again with blood pooling
at their devoted ankles. They salute me,
and pray to me, for me, that me
– Oh, Achilles –
, that we
– Of, Patroclus –
come back home.